Kaarten - A Paper Journal Supplement

/ 1 Floreal 231
2 minutes / 395 words

Kaarten is a simple, portable digital system to keep track of your bibliography for your analog notes.

Zettlekasten means “note box”, and is a method for organizing all your thoughts in an organized, retrievable way. If you find such solutions too heavy, try Kaarten - our “deck of cards”.


Consider a paper notebook as a write-once, read-often database.

Paper space is limited, so it is pertinent to utilize much of the notebook for frequently referenced information - things like your appointments, thought summaries, or perhaps notes on topics or books you find interesting.

It can be useful to keep track of where your ideas come from, whether books, podcasts, websites, or anywhere else - these are traditionally written either in-line or on dedicated pages as a bibliography.

While useful to know, bibliographies are not frequently referenced, difficult to handwrite consistently, and take up significant page space.

This information is perfect for offloading to your Kaarten, a database which is saved to a microSD card or USB drive that lives with your journal.

How to Use

Your Kaarten is a text file database organized in csv format. It has three fields - your biblio, a short uuid, and the date added.

"Bush, Vannevar. “As We May Think.” Interactions, vol. 3, no. 2, Mar. 1996, pp. 35–46. DOI.org (Crossref), https://doi.org/10.1145/227181.227186","4d5635","8/11/2022"

You could hypothetically edit this file manually, but I’ve built a tool that handles appending, searching, and sorting this database.

Kaarten Deno

Kaarten-deno is a Kaarten “handler” written in TypeScript and run with Deno. It uses Cliffy to draw its tables and handle cli commands.

Download it here.

You can also run it directly with deno as so:

deno run --allow-read --allow-write https://git.sr.ht/~tonic/kaarten-deno/blob/v0.2.2/kaarten.ts

deno compile --allow-read --allow-write https://git.sr.ht/~tonic/kaarten-deno/blob/v0.2.2/kaarten.ts


  1. Create a kaarten; this is a plain text file with the headers “Note”,“UUID”,“Date”. It can be called whatever you like, but I use kaarten.txt

  2. use kaarten -a to append new notes to your database. It will automatically sort the database so that most recent notes are at the top (so technically, it’s actually a “prepend” - but whatever).

  3. use kaarten -q to search your kaarten by either reference id or note snippet.

  4. kaarten -s can be used to sort a database by date, if you have hand-added entries, or were using a different handler.


Conversations about the Kaarten method can be had on it’s mailing list.